Cover Letters For Dummies 3E

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Overview

Cover letters are alive and sell! When they’re written right, that is. To stand out in today’s sea of qualified job seekers, learn to craft riveting new breeds of cover letters, create vibrant images online, and discover sensational self-marketing documents you never imagined. This completely revised and updated 3rd Edition of Cover Letters For Dummies brings you all this — plus over 200 great new samples by 62 successful professional cover letter/resume writers.

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Overview

Cover letters are alive and sell! When they’re written right, that is. To stand out in today’s sea of qualified job seekers, learn to craft riveting new breeds of cover letters, create vibrant images online, and discover sensational self-marketing documents you never imagined. This completely revised and updated 3rd Edition of Cover Letters For Dummies brings you all this — plus over 200 great new samples by 62 successful professional cover letter/resume writers.

You’ve probably suspected that passive and sleepy cover letters merely hugging resumes won’t get you where you want to go. Especially in a shaky job market. The verdict’s in. Since the last edition of Cover Letters For Dummies, blazing fast change in tools, technology, and how hiring managers come calling and how we invite them to look us over, means big dramatic changes in our job messages.

In this exceptional handbook of contemporary job messages, you’ll discover fresh ways of thinking about cover letters that captain an entire team of new-style job messages.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470402214
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 1/9/2009
  • Series: For Dummies Series
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 7.30 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Kostya Kennedy
Joyce Lain Kennedy is a nationally syndicated careers columnist appearing in newspapers and on Web sites across the country. The author of seven career management books, she has more than 30 years of experience in the career field.
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Table of Contents

Introduction.

Part I: Cover Letters and So Much More!

Chapter 1: News Flash: Cover Letters Are Grown Up and Have Kids.

Chapter 2: Creating Images Online for Now and Tomorrow.

Chapter 3: Special Marketing Messages Outrun Rivals.

Part II: Creating Compelling Communications.

Chapter 4: Writing Your Way to a Job.

Chapter 5: Language That Snap-Crackle-Pops.

Chapter 6: Great Lines for Success.

Chapter 7: Job Seeker’s Skills Finder.

Part III: Job Letters: Sample the Best.

Chapter 8: Job Ad Reply Letters.

Chapter 9: Broadcast and Prospecting Letters.

Chapter 10: Networking Letters.

Chapter 11: Resume Letters.

Chapter 12: Thank-You and Follow-Up Letters.

Part IV: Online Messages: Sample the Best.

Chapter 13: Branding Statements and Online Profiles.

Chapter 14: E-Mail Cover Notes.

Part V: The Part of Tens.

Chapter 15: Ten Urban Legends to Toss.

Chapter 16: Ten Tips for Top-Rated Online Profiles.

Appendix: Directory of Job Letter Writers.

Index.

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First Chapter

Chapter 5
JobSeeker's Skills Finder

In This Chapter

  • Developing a skills language
  • Finding transferable skills
  • Detecting employability skills
  • Identifying technical skills
  • Understanding skills certification

The next big buzzword on the job search horizon is skills. A related buzzword is skills certification.

Haven't skills always been a centerpiece in the hiring arrangement? Yes, they have. But their degree of importance is going up like a rocket. Within the next few years, I predict that the concept of skills will explode in the marketplace. Books about skills will be written; seminars teaching skill identification will flourish; and trainers will clue supervisors about techniques to recognize skills in employees.

The reason for this emphasis on skills is that we're living through an evolving and unpredictable job market where skills that applicants bring to the job eclipse every other factor in hiring.

Small businesses are creating most of the new jobs, and small companies have fewer resources to use in training new hires. So the skills for which you don't need to be trained are paramount. Moreover, large companies are racked by advancing technology that makes jobs obsolete or surplus, and by management decisions that dispose of workers to boost returns for investors.The more skills you have, the more likely you are to be retained when corporate downsizing starts its slide.

Corporate America used to have a hiring policy of hire-until-retire. This policy has been replaced by hire-until-fire, as illustrated by this paraphrasing of a statement recently issued to employees by a U.S. corporate giant:

Don't expect to spend a lifetime with us. You'll be here 5, 10 -- perhaps 15 years. Take responsibility for your career. Don't count on us as corporate parents.

Many job tenures are downgraded in this new sunset hiring style where jobs are destined to be phased out in two to three years -- or, for contract jobs, even 6 to 18 months.

All these changes add up to an increased demand for people who can hit the floor running -- people who require little on-job training to become immediately productive. The only people who fit these new and demanding criteria are people with specific, marketable skills.

You can prove your skills by demonstration (you show), inference (your prior education and experience show), assertion (you claim), references (others claim on your behalf), and certification (you prove skills by testing and peer evaluation).

If you are to master the competition in the new workplaces of America, follow these rules:

  1. Be ready to identify your skills and to explain how your skills make you immediately productive to a new employer.
  2. If you do not have marketable skills, get some by whatever means available to you, from on-job training to formal education.
  3. Follow rule number 1 -- again and again.

Where There's a Skill There's a Way

Analyzing skills only looks easy. The task can prove challenging even when you know what you're doing. A practical way to organize skills for job-seeking purposes is to divide them into three basic types: transferable skills, employability skills, and technical skills.

  • Transferable skills: Transferable skills are your most important skills -- portable skills that you can use in job after job. They answer an employer's question: "Can you do the job?" Because they apply to a variety of jobs, they can be considered nonspecific. For example, employers value communications skills in jobs ranging from apple grower to zoo keeper. You can transfer these skills from job to job, or even from one career field to another career field.
  • Employability skills: Employability skills are personal skills that answer the employer's questions: "Will you do the job? Will you do the job in harmony with other employees?" Also called adaptive or self-management skills, these skills can be considered person-specific. For example, reliability, honesty, enthusiasm, and getting along with others illustrate characteristics included in employability skills. Employability skills suggest character and attitudes -- who you are and how you work.
  • Technical skills: Technical skills are job-related skills, suitable for a particular type of job. They also answer an employer's question, "Can you do the job?" Often you can't easily move technical skills from one employer to another, and so these skills are considered job-specific. For example, the ability to use a certain brand of mold-injection machine classifies as a technical skill.

Here's a common-sense tip: Mention your technical skill(s) only when you are certain that a prospective employer can benefit from the technical skill(s) you bring. Unless you are positive the employer can use your technical skill(s), stick to transferable skills in your cover letter and resume.

Discovering Your Skills

Because the skills concept is becoming such a hot issue, I give you a couple of checklists to help you round up and brand those you own. Don't get creative and adopt a skill just because it looks good on paper or when you're not sure what the word means. If you don't know what a word or a term means, look it up or don't use it. You can expect to be grilled on your skill claims during a job interview. Prepare to support each skill claim with quantifiable evidence.

Read through these transferable and employability skills checklists and mark those words and terms that apply to you. Include those terms as part of your skills language to take with you from job to job.

I don't include a technical skills checklist because those skills vary according to each individual's job area.

Skills: Your count or mine?

It's a matter of opinion how skills are classified. Some advisers, for instance, divide skills into only two categories: work content and functional.

Work-content skills are used to perform a specific type of job, such as financial planning or computer programming; they are learned through school or work experience.

Functional skills are transferable, learned across careers, jobs, and industries.

The classification scheme isn't important. What counts in a job search is being able to sell yourself by identifying your skills.

Transferable Skills Checklist

A


Accelerating
Accomplishing
Accounting
Accuracy
Achieving
Activating
Active
Active learning
Active listening
Adapting
Addressing
Adjusting
Administering
Advertising
Advising
Aiding
Allocating
Altering
Amending
Analyzing behavior
Analyzing costs
Announcing
Anticipating
Appearance
Application
Appointing
Appraising
Appreciation
Arbitrating
Argumentation
Arranging
Articulation
Assembling
Assessing cost
Assessing damage
Assigning
Assisting
Attaining
Attending
Auditing
Augmenting
Authoring
Automating

B


Balancing
Bargaining
Blending
Bookkeeping
Boosting
Bridging
Briefing
Budgeting
Building

C


Calculating
Calibrating
Cataloging
Categorizing
Chairing
Charting
Checking
Clarifying
Classifying
Clerical ability
Coaching
Coaxing
Cognizance
Coherence
Collaborative
Combining
Comforting
Commanding
Communicating
Comparing
Competence
Compiling
Complimenting
Composing
Compromising
Computing
Condensing
Conducting
Confidentiality
Conflict resolution
Conforming
Confronting
Consolidating
Constructing
Consulting
Contingency planning
Contracting
Controlling
Converting
Convincing
Cooperation
Coordinating
Copying
Correcting
Correlating
Corresponding
Counseling
Counteracting
Counterbalancing
Counting
Creating
Creative writing
Crisis management

D


Data collecting
Data entry
Debating
Decision making
Deductive reasoning
Defending
Defining problems
Delegating
Delivering
Demonstrating
Depicting
Describing
Designating
Designing
Detecting
Developing ideas
Devising
Diagnosing
Diagramming
Diplomacy
Directing
Discretion
Discussing
Dispatching
Dispensing
Displaying
Distributing
Diversifying
Diverting
Documenting
Drafting
Drawing
Duplicating

E


Editing
Educating
Effecting change
Elevating
Eliminating
Empowering
Enabling
Enacting
Encouraging
Engineering a plan
Enhancing
Enlarging
Enlisting
Enlivening
Enriching
Envisioning
Equalizing
Escalating
Establishing objectives
Establishing priorities
Estimating
Evaluating
Examining
Exchanging information
Executing a plan
Exhibiting
Expanding
Expediting
Extracting

F


Fabricating
Facilitating
Figuring
Filing
Finding
Finishing
Fixing
Fluency
Following through
Forecasting
Foresight
Forging
Forming
Formulating
Fostering
Founding
Framing
Fulfilling
Fundraising
Furthering

G


Gauging
Generalizing
Generating
Grammar
Graphics
Grouping
Guessing
Guiding

H


Handling complaints
Harmonizing
Heading
Healing
Helpful
Hypothesizing

I


Identifying alternatives
Identifying causes
Identifying downstream consequences
Identifying issues
Identifying needs
Identifying principles
Identifying problems
Illuminating
Illustrating
Impartial
Implementing
Improving
Incitement
Increasing
Indexing
Indoctrinating
Inducive
Inductive reasoning
Influencing
Information gathering
Information management
Information organization
Information receiving
Informing
Infusing
Insightful
Inspecting
Inspiring
Installation
Instilling
Instituting
Instruction
Integration
Interaction
Interceding
Interpersonal skills
Interpretation
Interrupting
Intervening
Interviewing
Introducing
Investigation
Isolating
Itemizing

J


Joining
Judgment

K


Keeping deadlines
Keyboarding
Knowledge of subject

L


Language
Launching
Laying
Leadership
Learning
Lecturing
Listening for content
Listening for context
Listening for directions
Listening for emotional meaning
Listing
Locating
Logical reasoning
Long-term planning

M


Maintaining confidentiality
Maintenance
Managing
Maneuvering
Manipulation
Mapping
Marketing
Masking
Matching
Mathematics
Measuring
Mechanical ability
Mediating
Meeting
Mending
Mentoring
Merchandising
Minding machines
Minimizing
Modeling
Moderating
Modifying
Modulating
Molding
Money management
Monitoring
Motivating

N


Negotiating
Nonpartisan
Number skills
Nursing
Nurturing

O


Objectivity
Observing
Operating vehicles
Operations analysis
Oral communication
Oral comprehension
Orchestrating
Organizational effectiveness
Organizing
Outfitting
Outlining
Outreach
Overhauling
Overseeing

P


Pacifying
Paraphrasing
Participating
Patterning
Perceiving
Perfecting
Performing
Persuasion
Photography
Picturing
Pinpointing
Planning
Plotting
Policy making
Polishing
Politicking
Popularizing
Portraying
Precision
Prediction
Preparation
Presentation
Printing
Prioritizing
Probing
Problem-solving
Processing
Producing
Professional
Prognostication
Program design
Program developing
Program implementation
Projection
Promoting
Proofreading
Proposing
Protecting
Providing
Public speaking
Publicizing
Publishing
Purchasing

Q


Quality control

R


Raising
Ranking
Readiness
Reading comprehension
Reasoning
Reclaiming
Recognition
Reconciling
Recording
Recovering
Recruiting
Rectifying
Reducing
Referring
Reformative
Regulating
Rehabilitating
Reinforcing
Relationship building
Remodeling
Rendering
Reorganizing
Repairing
Repeating
Reporting
Representing
Researching
Resolving
Resource development
Resource management
Response coordination
Restoring
Restructuring
Retrieving
Reversing
Reviewing
Revitalizing
Rhetoric
Rousing
Running

S


Saving
Scanning
Scheduling
Schooling
Science
Scientific reasoning
Screening
Scrutiny
Searching
Selecting
Selling
Sensitivity
Sequencing
Serving
Setting up
Settling
Shaping
Shielding
Situation analysis
Sketching
Social perceptiveness
Solidifying
Solution appraisal
Solving
Sorting
Speaking
Spearheading
Specialization
Specifying
Speculating
Speech
Stabilizing
Stimulating
Stirring
Storing information
Streamlining
Strengthening
Structuring
Styling
Substituting
Summarizing
Supervising
Supplementing
Supporting
Surmising
Surveying
Sustaining
Synthesis
Systematizing
Systems analysis
Systems management
Systems perception
Systems understanding

T


Tabulating
Taking instruction
Talking
Teaching
Teamwork
Technical writing
Tempering
Terminology
Testing
Theorizing
Time management
Training
Translating
Traveling
Treating
Troubleshooting
Tutoring
Typing

U


Unifying
Updating
Upgrading
Using tools

V


Values clarification
Visual communication

W


Word processing
Working with earth
Working with nature
Working with others
Written communication

Your top transferable skills

Select your top six transferable skills from those you marked in this chapter. Keep these top transferable skills in mind as you look for validation of each one while doing the worksheets in Chapter 6. (You'll also unearth additional transferable skills in working your Chapter 6 worksheets.)







Employability Skills Checklist

A


Ability to learn
Abstract thinking
Accepting onsequences
Ability to learn
Abstract thinking
Accepting criticism
Accepting freedom
Accepting supervision
Accommodating
Active
Adventurous
Affable
Agile
Alert
Ambitious
Amicable
Animated
Appealing
Approachable
Artistic abilities
Aspiring
Assertive
Astute
Athletic
Attendance
Attention to detail
Autonomy
Awareness

B


Benevolent
Benign
Bold
Brave
Bright

C


Careful
Caring
Casual
Cautious
Charismatic
Charitable
Charming
Cheerful
Chivalrous
Clever
Colorful
Commitment
Common sense
Compassion
Compliant
Composure
Comprehension
Concentration
Conceptualization
Concern
Confidence
Congenial
Conscientious
Conservative
Considerate
Consistent
Constant
Contemplative
Cordial
Courageous
Courteous
Creativity
Critical thinking
Cunning
Curiosity

D


Daring
Decisive
Dedicated
Deft
Deliberate
Dependable
Desire
Determined
Devoted
Devout
Dexterity
Dignity
Diligent
Discipline
Dogged
Drive
Dutiful
Dynamic

E


Eager
Earnest
Easy-going
Economical
Efficient
Eloquence
Empathy
Energetic
Engaging
Enjoys challenge
Enterprising
Entertaining
Enthusiasm
Entrepreneurial
Ethical
Exciting
Explorative
Expression
Extemporizing
Extroverted

F


Fair
Faithful
Fast
Firm
Flexibility
Focused
Forceful
Fortitude
Friendly
Funny

G


Generous
Gentle
Genuine
Gifted
Good-natured
Graceful
Gracious

H


Hardworking
Hardy
Honest
Honor
Humble
Humorous
Hustle

I


Imagination
Immaculate
Impetus
Improvisation
Incentive
Independent
Industrious
Informal
Ingenious
Initiative
Innovative
Inquisitive
Integrity
Intelligence
Interest
Intuitive
Inventing

K


Keen
Kind

L


Likable
Lively
Loyal

M


Maturity
Memory
Methodical
Meticulous
Mindful
Modest
Motivation

N


Neat
Nimble

O


Obliging
Open-minded
Opportunistic
Optimistic
Orderly
Original
Outgoing

P


Painstaking
Patience
Perfectionist
Persevering
Persistence
Personable
Pioneering
Pleasant
Poised
Polite
Positive
Powerful
Practical
Pragmatic
Presence
Pride
Progressive
Prompt
Prudent
Punctuality

Q


Questioning
Quick-thinking

R


Rational
Realistic
Reasonable
Receptive
Reflective
Relentless
Reliable
Reserved
Resolute
Respectful
Responsible
Responsiveness
Restraint
Retention
Reverent
Risk taking
Robust

S


Safety
Savvy
Scrupulous
Self-esteem
Self-motivating
Self-reliant
Self-respect
Sense of humor
Sensible
Sharp
Showmanship
Shrewd
Sincere
Smart
Sociable
Spirited
Stalwart
Stamina
Staunch
Steadfast
Steady
Striving
Strong
Studious
Sturdy
Style

T


Tactful
Tasteful
Tenacious
Thinking
Thorough
Thoughtfulness
Trustworthy

U


Unbiased
Understanding
Unprejudiced
Unpretentious
Unselfish

V


Venturing
Versatile
Vigilant
Vigorous
Visualizing
Vivacious

W


Warm
Wary
Watchful
Willingness to follow rules
Wisdom
Work ethic
Work habits
Working alone
Working under pressure

Your top employability skills

Select your top six employability skills from those you marked in this chapter. Keep these top employability skills in mind as you look for validation of each one while doing the worksheets in Chapter 6. (You'll also unearth additional employability skills in working with your Chapter 6 worksheets.)







Basic Skills Employers Want

You know the skills you have to offer, but how do you know which of those skills to offer? According to a study by the American Society for Training and Development and the U.S. Department of Labor, reading, writing, and arithmetic are no longer enough for a perfect job candidate. Based on the study, here's the hot gossip on employers' favorite skills.

The main skills employers want fall into four categories:

  • Effective communication: Employers seek candidates who can listen to instructions and act on those instructions with minimal guidance. They want employees who speak and write effectively, organizing their thoughts logically and explaining everything clearly.
  • Problem-solving: Problem-solving ability can aid you with transactions, data processing, formulating a vision, and reaching a resolution. Employers need the assurance that you can conquer job challenges.
  • Organization: Life in the working world requires prioritizing and organizing information. The tidier your mental file folders, the clearer your focus.
  • Leadership: Leadership consists of a strong sense of self, confidence, and comprehensive knowledge of company goals. These are qualities that motivate and inspire, providing a solid foundation for teamwork.

Grammar grill: Watch the tense

The checklists I provide contain nouns and adjectives as well as verbs, which are usually expressed as gerunds (words ending in -ing). Watch the verbs: They hold the potential for ambush. Here's what I mean:

Saying that you are employed from "19XX to Present" suggests that you are still working. Use the present tense of verbs for current activities. Some people, who really are working, forget about this and use the past tense of verbs. That error invites the employer to think: "She is trying to put one over on me. This applicant is really out of a job, but wants me to think that she is currently employed."

If you have the skills and are using them now in your job, use the present tense.

Employers' HotSkills buzzwords

  1. Listening
  2. Communicating clearly
  3. Problem-solving
  4. Showing leadership
  5. Goal-setting/achieving
  6. Self-motivating
  7. Showing confidence
  8. Organizing
  9. Conceptualizing
  10. Negotiating

The New Job Insurance: Certification

More than 43 million jobs have been erased in the United States since 1979, according to a New York Times analysis of U.S. Labor Department numbers. In an ongoing game of musical jobs, long-lasting employment has slipped into the shadows for people everywhere.

What help is there to make your skills portable, to carry you along the waves of opportunity? One answer is credentialing, or certification.

The nuts and bolts of certification

A professional certification can be a kind of passport, identifying you as a citizen of a career field with all its rank and privilege. In other words, professional credentialing is one way to document your ownership of the skills you claim.

Not all credentials are worthy. A credential is worth the effort it takes to get it only if it has industry recognition and respect. Even so, given the circumstances, certification is almost sure to become a growth industry before the century ends.

Here's a crash course on certification.

Differences in certification exist, but for ease of communication, I include other terms of validation such as registered, accredited, chartered, qualified, and diplomate, as well as certified. Whether the professional designation carries statutory clout or is voluntary, common elements include professional experience, often between two and ten years, sometimes reduced by education. Education standards are included, which may call for minimum levels of both academic and professional education.

Certification examinations, which may be one or several, are uninviting to many professionals -- generally, they require time-consuming study and may include both experience-based knowledge acquired working in the field and curriculum-based knowledge gained by assigned learning texts.

Membership in the certification-granting organization may be required, as well as professional recommendations. Rarely does certification come cheap. Costs can run from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

What's certification worth?

Is certification worth your effort?

Certification has strong appeal in your early career -- say, the first 12 to 15 years -- as a technique to control your earnings environment. But, in business, certifications lose their luster at the vice-presidential level and above. Why? Certifications zero in on specific skills, while top managers are more concerned with the big picture. For consulting, medicine, law, and technology careers, professional certifications never lose their punch, especially for those who hope to work internationally.

The credential may be a license awarded by a state board, such as the familiar certified public accountant (CPA), or a voluntary program sponsored by a professional organization, such as the designation of accredited in public relations (APR) awarded by the Public Relations Society of America.

Because a given professional certification may not carry stripes for your sleeve, much less stars for your shoulder, investigate first. Clues to look for include the following: Do recruitment ads call for the professional designation? Do trade journals mention it? What do practitioners in your field advise?

  • As you change jobs more often, certification can be a kind of passport. It shows that you're a player in your field's global body of knowledge and that you have documented standards and achievements.
  • Certification can be very helpful if you become sidetracked into too narrow a specialty or stagnate in a company with antiquated technologies or find yourself boxed in by a hostile boss. The boss can still claim you lack interpersonal abilities, but a professional designation leaves little room to say you're short on technical skills.
  • You may earn more money going the certified route. A study of management accountants showed those holding the certified management accountant (CMA) designation outearn those who do not by about $9,000 to $15,000 yearly.

Need more? Check your library for a standard reference: Guide to National Professional Certification Programs by Phillip Barnhart (HRD Press). It details more than 500 certification programs, indexed by occupation.

No Frills, Just Skills

Now that you can speak a few words in skills talk, turn to the worksheets in Chapter 6. You'll review your education, jobs, and other experiences to find examples of the skills you claim -- and you'll look for other skills you may have overlooked. By now you know that all this fuss over skills is because Skills Sell!

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  • Posted October 1, 2009

    Cover Letters for Dummies 3E

    "If you are looking for a job in today's tumultuous environment, make
    Cover Letters for Dummies 3E your job search companion. Joyce Lain
    Kennedy has, once again, created a masterpiece for job seekers. I
    recommend this book daily to clients of my career transition services
    practice. Be it entry-level or senior leadership, there's something for
    everyone in this work. If you don't have a need for this book, consider
    giving it as a gift to someone who does! They'll no doubt thank you for
    your thoughtful gesture! Happy reading and here's to your job search
    success!"

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2009

    Perfect timing!

    Released with impeccable timing given the current economic environment, Cover Letters for Dummies helps level the playing field for multiple generations of job seekers. As I read, it became unequivocally evident that protocol has changed drastically over the decades. If those of us near retirement age and perhaps jobless are to compete effectively for limited positions, it would behoove us to listen carefully to the 50 plus professionals who have shared letters and online messages. A very important guide for one and all!

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    Posted January 14, 2009

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    Posted September 11, 2009

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